ABM Playbook

ABM: It's all about the data

In this episode of Lets Talk ABM, we chat to Randi Barshack, SVP of Marketing at RollWorks, on why ABM is all about the data, and the future of ABM.

Date published: Date modified: 2021-01-15 strategicabm 550 60

Randi Barshack
SVP Marketing, RollWorks

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Randi Barshack

Randi Barshack is SVP of Marketing at RollWorks. A 30 year veteran of media and technology industries, Randi has built and scaled marketing teams toward a total $1bn in exit valuations in B2B companies covering a wide range of technologies including Artificial Intelligence, API’s, Communications, Search and Customer Experience.

Declan heads up marketing at strategicabm. After some 20 years working as a CMO in the Professional Services, SaaS and EdTech sectors, Declan is now Agency-side building the Strategic IC brand and sharing our clients’ ABM success stories.

Watch this webinar and learn:

  • The role of RollWorks in the ABM ecosystem   
  • Why ABM is the hottest ticket in town
  • Advice on how to start an ABM programme
  • What does the future hold for ABM
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ABM: It's all about the data

The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Today I'm joined by Randi Barshack, Senior Vice President of Marketing of RollWorks. Randi, thanks for joining us today.

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - Thanks for having me Declan.

Declan Mulkeen - And so just a quick one, really. So for those who are not familiar with RollWorks could you tell us a little bit about the company and your position in the market?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - Sure. So RollWorks is a provider of an ABM platform for B2B businesses. A few things about RollWorks are that first and foremost, we feel very strongly that ABM is a  strategy that could and should be embraced by all types of B2B marketers. So we're on a very definitive mission of democratising access to ABM and to that means, we have a full array of packages for our solution. The only solution that, the only provider that has a sub $1,000 per month solution where we start and then go all the way up to larger enterprise solutions for larger organisations. 

As part of that strategy, we also have a very, very strong partner first approach. So we're partnered with all leading vendors for everything from marketing automation systems to CRMs to intent providers and have very strong investment in our partner ecosystem, enabling us ultimately Declan to bring best of breed to the customers that we serve. And then finally, for some of you that have been following RollWorks we actually are part of the NextRoll group, which is the latest iteration of a company that was formerly known as AdRoll. So what that means for us is that we have a very, very strong advertising infrastructure backbone that powers our B2B solution. And what that means is while we have very strong solutions about identifying Target Accounts using, we're able to leverage a decade plus of work on machine learning and AI that enables the identification of great targets and then the infrastructure for activation that gives you by far the largest reach of any provider out there and then of course we have tremendous investment in our ability to measure those solutions. So we're really proud of the backbone that enables for fantastic digital activation within our customer base.

So that's a little bit about RollWorks. We're headquartered in San Francisco but have people all over the world and I got my San Francisco backdrop for all of you this morning so you can see a little bit of our city.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Very, very generous Randi

Randi Barshack (RollWorks)- Through the window pane. (laughs)

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Very jealous there, Randi of your view.

So that's an interesting point actually. We've seen an explosion over the last few years of ABM martech, well martech in general, obviously ABM martech in particular, do you think that's all good news?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - I think the right answer would be yes. The correct answer would be no and by that I mean quite frankly, I do not come from the martech world, I am a serial Head of Marketing at a variety of companies and a variety of industries. So quite frankly, before I became well acquainted with RollWorks, I was a little adverse to ABM because it was such a, so full of hype and buzzwords that in many ways I feel like the industry's co-opted it to mean whatever is self-serving for each vendor and in that, the real essence throughout the industry of what ABM is can tend to get lost right? So, in that regard, I wish  sometimes, not all the time that the term ABM, weren't as hot as it were but the concepts of ABM were where people were focused and that's my own personal journey, how I fell in love with what we do was by sort of not focusing on the hype and the buzzword but really looking at what ABM is and many many companies that I would never describe as ABM will have on their website, ABM provider and they're not doing anything anywhere near what I would define as ABM. So really ABM is about Marketing and Sales Teams working together to identify their Target Accounts. 

Another belief that we have at RollWorks is that means a robust set of accounts, not a very limited amount of accounts. So sometimes ABM people will say, well, we have a list of 50 named accounts and we're going to invite them all to dinner and send them expensive bottles of wine and so we've checked our ABM list. But there's still clearly lots of companies that are being targeted in marketing campaigns and in Demand Gen efforts. And it's really just sort of another approach to named accounts strategy which has been around for years and years. So at its essence to me, ABM is data-driven and I don't throw that term around lightly. 

What I mean is that there's an objective data set of your Target Account list, tiers, so some of them might require or warrant rather hand-holding, expensive gifts, dinners when we can go back to having them. Others, maybe a second tier, are very, very good prospects but you might not have the budget or time to handhold them in that way but they should definitely be where you're investing some dollars and some efforts and then other tiers where they're on your Target Account list and maybe you do a little bit more fishing to see when they nibble at the bait because you know they're going to be a good catch but Marketing needs to invest kind of lower cost dollars, but some to attract them and then you can adjust as your   as

you become more successful. But the most important thing is that that list needs to live in a place where both Marketing and Sales are activating and running their day-to-day activities against that core list. Whereas again, I would say the old ABM or Target Accounts, named account strategy is there would be an Excel spreadsheet somewhere that was displayed at sales kickoff and then it kind of got somewhere on the server, no one can ever find it until you're having, you buy a box at a baseball game or football match in your case and you're sort of like looking for that. Where's that named account list? But it's not in your day-to-day strategies. And I think that's a very important difference in terms of, in my mind, what is really an ABM strategy versus what is just the same named account strategy where there's a list floating around that you pull out from time to time for certain activities.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - And linked to that point, actually, do you see with RollWorks with the kind of companies you work with, do you see successful ABM programmes very much linked to where there is a C-suite engagement, whether it's an Executive engagement in the programme?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - To a certain degree, yes, to a certain degree you can, an ABM strategy can be part of what just enables a Marketing Team to focus on accounts that are going to be higher value. And I guess, in theory, you can do that without C-suite buy in. The more important thing is that there's alignment with Sales.

Again, ABM can be quite successful if it's just a Marketing play, thus, Account-based Marketing, but where it's really going to kick in is where that identification is shared by Marketing and Sales Teams. So Marketing and Sales are prioritising the same accounts in the same way and you have a very, very orchestrated, a go-to-market play where Marketing knows when they're taking the lead and then Sales knows or primarily your SDRs when they're taking the lead, and then throughout the process, there's an understanding of not where leads are but where accounts are.

So then as accounts move down funnel, you have your account leads or your sellers that are very aware of everything that's touching the account. And so they have a bird's eye view,

per se, of what's happening out the account. The reason I say that the C-suite might not need to know is if you're Marketing and Sales teams are aligned, your C-suite will see it in success and they'll see a more efficient go-to-market motion. It would be nice if they know that that's due to ABM efforts, particularly if it's RollWorks that they're using but it's more important in my mind that the Sales and Marketing teams are the ones that understand how that beautiful sausage is made and what's enabling them to be more focused and more efficient and then the success, in my opinion, speaks for itself.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - And Randi, what do you see the future like for ABM? What does ABM 2020 and beyond look like for you?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - ABM in 2020. I think honestly Declan, there's a big conversation that we have often at RollWorks and I'm sure you have with your clients which is, are leads dead? Is it only ABM? We're big believers in ABM because it is more efficient and it helps you prioritise. And those are time and resources are always what we are lacking, but the time, people and money and ABM helps you to focus on that. 

But the channels don't all necessarily align with that. So, back six months ago when you  were going to an event, sure, by nature of what the event is, you're curating an audience, but you can't control the traffic flowing by your booth and say, I' only want people in my targeted account list coming to my booth.'

So there are channels that are going to be lead focused But as we become more digital, even things like that, will, as badges become RFID enabled and we all have digital fingerprints, our ability to identify people before we engage and know where they're coming from and what account they're associated with and what their role is will only grow. So I do believe there'll be a shifting, that there won't, we will still continue. It doesn't cost me a lot to send an email to a broader audience and if people are interested and respond, you might look at who they are and decide whether you want to follow up or not. But even recently, we're seeing with things like content syndication, we can give the syndicators a list of our target accounts and focus only on the prospects that are coming from our target account list so that we're not inundating our SDRs with a broad list of people that were really interested in our whitepaper, but actually, aren't good prospects worth the time to follow up on. So over time, I do believe the channels will shift and our ability to digitally identify people will increase over time and our ability to understand what a targeted, what a qualified Target Account is, and our ability to score that will also only increase. So I do believe it is the future and we'll see a shift, I don't think the market or the industry is there right now. I think right now ABM is a fantastic complement to the solutions that you're using. And over time, we'll see it becoming more and more a critical part of your strategy and then I believe in the not too distant future, the core part of your strategy.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Yeah and just talking, you've mentioned what's been happening over the last few months and what surprised you perhaps in terms of your go-to-to market strategy? What's kind of surprised you that's worked and perhaps things that haven't worked? What kind of shift has there been in how you've been going to market over the course of the last four or five months?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - Oh, yeah, that's the big question. There's clearly there's obvious things. We had a very, very robust event season planned for the spring. It literally went away overnight and suddenly, we went from, I don't remember how many events we had in Q2 to none. And now clearly of the remainder of the year, we will not be at events and most likely into 2021. So, at first that was a hiatus on in-person events and now we have to rethink your entire marketing plan. There's been two I would say silver linings and I hate to even use that phrase with something that's impacted the world the way it is, but I'll say silver lining to the  shift in marketing obviously not in a broader sense what's happening in the world. One is that marketers are really forced to flex their digital muscle and events are so easy in the way that it's person to person. You're talking to people, there's adrenaline flowing and everyone is able to rally around that. And then and digital is, it's sort of back in the office rethinking things. Yes, you get amazing reach and you're fiddling with knobs, but is that, traditionally, you think of the je ne sais quoi sort of missing from digital because you didn't get that high that you get from events. So it's forced marketers to, if you still are chasing that high, digital's the only place that you're going to get that. When I say digital, I also mean things like gifting and physical. So it's forced us to be more creative and embrace the technologies that have been sitting there right in front of our faces, but we really haven't been utilising and so we've seen some phenomenal and really creative ways in which marketers, our customers are utilising digital that they haven't before and we've seen ABM starting to take on more of an awareness versus purely focused on mid-funnel or demand.

We have one customer that actually had their user event cancelled three, I think two or three weeks before it was scheduled to happen. They changed to a virtual event and they were able to use a very, very brilliant ABM play to send specific messages to specific accounts that they were both going after as prospects but also that were customers with custom landing pages and they were able to drive tremendous traffic to their online event and augment it, just get their brand out there in the awareness. So I think there's been a silver lining in terms of digital's always had its day but a re-appreciation of digital and flexing some creative muscles.

The other thing which I personally, I'm not a very, I wouldn't just describe myself as a very fancy person, I like to be very real and I think that this has really stripped us bare of many many pretences that a lot of marketers feel like they are supposed to have and it's, I've enjoyed the human contact and connection that oftentimes we feel like our professional persona shouldn't allow in. And I think people have been much more raw even in the most professional of circumstances and it's enabled us to cut through some of the pretence and realise we always talk about that we're marketing to humans but even when we say that, B2B marketers still mean human prospects, not humans with dirty dishes in the sink, or kids screaming in the background and I think there's been something really nice about us all being able to drop the pretence a little bit and I think we all hope or many of us hope that that that aspect of things will stay. So it's been a bit of, as a marketer, I find it really refreshing that I can challenge the team to really talk to what's really going on with people and do that in a very raw, real authentic way.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - No, I think I'd definitely concur, Randi that I've probably built up some of the kind of nicest closest relationships over the course the last three or four months that I know probably would never have happened otherwise. If it was just relying on pure physical interaction etc, etc. This kind of rawness as you describe it, I think you've hit the nail on the head really in terms of this kind of ability to build a relationship because we're all in this together.

And I think that commonality, having that kind of that common issue that is affecting us all is driving us to have these more, as you say, more kind of human interactions and trying with our marketing at least to kind of have that conversation right?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - Yeah. And that's, we miss our in person events but I would say even with the in person events, we wouldn't get there. So hopefully we'll be in person to be able to celebrate that together soon but you're right. I think it's enabled us in this very ironic way to get closer to people.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - So does that mean Randi, is there anything that you thought, well, I'm always going to spend money on this. Is there's something now that you look back and you say, well you know what, I'm not going to spend money on that going forward because I actually realised that it was not necessarily a good investment. Even when things returned to normal, do you think there's going to be something that you'll say, no, we're not going to do that anymore.

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - You know it's funny, I keep asking the question of will conferences ever come back? I can't tell you, honestly I think it depends on the day, I feel like I'm going through cycles when it all, when things first were cancelled, I was more than happy to put my suitcase in the back of the closet and take a bit of a break and it was very refreshing. Then you kind of miss the interaction and you start to see cobwebs on your suitcase. I haven't seen my, I don't even know where my suitcase is these days, he's off doing whatever. 

And so clearly, I think the big question is how important are in person events? Are they worth the effort and investment? So if I take those same dollars and put them towards digital, what can I do? So I would say I don't think they'll go away, I think right now I'm missing them more than I thought I would. So at first it was, I never have to go to Vegas or Orlando again, this is awesome. Because I've probably been there 100 times each but I think now we're missing some of that. And some of the practicality of meeting people and getting good leads, but also being with peers in settings. We'll see, I do think we'll see digital platforms starting to replicate more of that and talk to me in a few weeks, we've got a mid-year sales, not a sales kick off but sort of a mid-year company wide event and that's been a challenge of trying to capture that quality and energy. I think we'll rethink them and scrutinise them in a way that we haven't before because when you look dollar to dollar but yeah, so but, right now, catching me this morning, I'm missing them more than I was maybe in April or May. I think they'll come back but hopefully not with the vengeance of where they were. You were you were running a dozen plus events a month or a quarter.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC)- I know they're incredibly tiring. Both, organising them and obviously attending them are and also the follow up obviously is the key, isn't it? But they're incredibly tiring, exhausting and we'll see what happens actually, I think the conversations I've had with many people over the course of the last three or four months is that I think people do agree that they'll come back and say some shape or form, but they probably won't come back as they were before.

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - Yeah.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - So just a couple of questions specifically around RollWorks really. Obviously, there was a big announcement a few months ago from Google, that they were, this kind of decommissioning in that announcement and obviously, a lot of people were kind of concerned and worried and now it's disappeared and we're not sure what's happening but what's your take on that announcement and what the future holds?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - That's a good question. It's, we are, so we have an advantage at RollWorks in that because AdRoll has been around for a while. We've seen multiple iterations of standards coming and going and different ways in which the ongoing conversation about what's digitally possible and then what's digitally acceptable, having existential battles between themselves. So we feel confident that the industry will come together, we're participating in industry conversations about what the next generation and iteration will bring. Unfortunately, I think, where you have great technology and great power, you see abuse and it's always the few that ruin it for the many in terms of where consumers have gotten to the point where there's an outcry that led to these actions but particularly in B2B settings, we feel like there are technologies and solutions out there not today, I can't tell you exactly what they look like but there are alternatives that give us great confidence that we'll be able to live with things that we'll come out on the other side of this in a better. Yeah, I mean, I wish I had more details and a roadmap to lay in front of you. It's not the end of the internet, things will change but we've seen this with browsers before, having, different settings and blockers and there's ways that things have evolved.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - And talking about RollWorks, what does the future look like? Is there anything you can share with us? Anything that's going to be coming that we'll be looking forward to seeing over the course of the next few months?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - Well, we've had a really, really busy first half. So we released many new products, features and partnerships so I'd encourage you to sort of see what we've got going on. I'm really excited about a new product that just came out called Sales Insights which gives, it gives sellers the ability to see what accounts are spiking in activity on a daily basis and that's fed directly into Salesforce. So it doesn't pretend that sellers are going to suddenly get RollWorks accounts and be logging in every day. They're sitting in their Salesforce instance, they're able to see what accounts are spiking. We also have an intent offering that we have in partnership with Bombora. So you see spikes in engagement as well as deltas in intent and interest in topics that are aligned with your offering. Some of those near real-time capabilities to see how accounts are moving and not just individuals are two of the products I'm really excited about. As well, we've announced numerous partnerships, joining partner programmes with the likes of Marketo, HubSpot, Bombora and LinkedIn. And so as I mentioned earlier, we're really bullish on the ecosystem but there are, the last time I looked at the slide, I think there were 8000 companies on the martech ecosystem side. So this allows us to curate a little bit more and partner with the solutions that we feel best complement each other and bring, enable to your question earlier, we believe marketing automation platforms are not going anywhere but an Account-based Platform needs to be there. To call yourself a contemporary marketer, you need to understand what ABM is. If you don't, go, then you need to go one step past the buzzword and really understand it not just be able to spell it and complement your marketing automation efforts with something that's ABM so.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC)- That leads nicely to the last question actually. What advice would you give to any marketeer looking to start an ABM programme at their organisation? What would be your kind of top two or three tips for them to think about and kind of the pitfalls to avoid?

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - The pitfalls to avoid would be, I would, I hate to say educate yourself because it sounds so exhausting but enter your search with a bit of scepticism. And by that, I mean inviting your top 12 prospects to share an expensive dinner is not ABM. That's a named account strategy and that's been around as long as restaurants have been around or as long as people have been around. There's probably some caveman analogy of that. So, go back to what I talked about. It's an orchestrated data-driven effort that Sales and Marketing Teams share where accounts are prioritised and your actions and motions, whether that's SDR outreach, or whether that's the accounts that you're advertising to digitally or where you're sending gifts or who you're advertising to on LinkedIn, are engaged, right, so where you can control engagement and again, with RollWorks, even something as broad as display ads now can be laser-focused on particular accounts and particular accounts at particular stages in the journey with particular personas within those accounts. So even things that traditionally you think of as super broad and you can't curate, you can with the digital capabilities and then measuring at the Account-based level. So I would say, go a little deeper in understanding it. 

There are a lot of whitepapers out there and some of them will throw you off. So keep asking the questions 'till you really internalise and understand what it is and what's different. And again, it's something I found myself guilty of, kind of assuming it was named accounts, and that was it and being thrown by, I had this misunderstanding and I'm not going to name names but we actually were using a quote unquote ABM vendor at one of my companies and it wasn't doing what ABM is fully capable of doing. So, be sceptical until the light bulb clicks and you really get the power of what it can do and then experiment because it's early days but powerful and I think it's only going to get better and then add it to your resume that you're an ABM marketer. And that'll get you, take you right to the top.

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - That'll give you an extra few zeros on the end of your paycheck. Randi great, great advice. Lovely hearing about ABM and the journey that you've been on there at RollWorks. Thanks so much for spending some time with us this morning over there with that beautiful view of San Francisco. Thank you so much.

Randi Barshack (RollWorks) - Thank you Declan, it was so great speaking with you